The Illustrious Ice Tree of Gaylord, MI

If you’ve ever wintered in Gaylord, Michigan, surely you’ve marveled at our favorite frosty attraction – the Ice Tree. Is it really the world’s largest, as the sign adorning it boasts? And how did this downtown landmark come to be in the first place? We’ve done some digging and have the inside scoop for you!

While we couldn’t pin down an exact date, our research led us to this tradition beginning in the 1950s.  A group of local businessmen made a pile of discarded Christmas trees and sprayed it down with an excessive amount of water, thus creating Gaylord’s first Ice Tree. This modest project filled the residents and those visiting our Alpine Village with absolute glee!

Photo Courtesy of the Otsego County Historical Society

As our small town started to make a big reach with this simple gesture of winter fun, the Ice Tree gained more notoriety by receiving a formal name. In 1957, the Gaylord Herald Times held a competition to see who could come up with the best nickname for this beloved icon. The winning entry? “Cold Faithful,” which we’d love to see make a comeback today. Fun fact: The contest winner, Bob Lee, received a two-pound box of chocolates for his chosen entry!

By the 1960s, Gaylord’s notorious Ice Tree was receiving recognition from far and wide. Other cities even attempted to create their own icy monument, however, they just couldn’t match the majesty of what our community had on display.

As “Cold Faithful’s” popularity gained momentum, so did the need to see the tree grow. In 1965, our Ice Tree went through a major transition, both above and below ground. Dedicated community members created a metal frame that also had underground piping at the location of the newly constructed Courthouse. Improvements were continually made through the years, including enhanced underground hosing to prevent waterlines from freezing, ensuring the Ice Tree would continue growing for the entire season.

So, is it really the World’s Largest Ice Tree, as the sign states? While no one is breaking out their tape measure and fact checking our community’s bold statement, there doesn’t appear to be any clear competition in this department. For now, Gaylord can proudly say we have the World’s Largest Ice Tree. We can also unabashedly say we have the world’s most unique and intriguing Ice Tree, as the weather and elements refresh its look each year.

To leave you with one last fun fact on “Cold Faithful,” this beloved attraction weighs an average 190-200 tons at its seasonal peak!

**Thank you to the Otsego County Historical Society for sharing their ice tree intel with us!